Tips on how to stay more connected during COVID-19

Pierre-Alexandre Riera

Chief Commercial Officer and Board Member at Isobar Switzerland

Our lives are changing

A few words about me: I have a two-year-old son who is nothing less than pure happiness and a wife who I admire. I love my family and have a fulfilling job that I take pleasure in doing every day.

But in the current context, our lives are changing and it looks like we’re going to have to change some of our behaviours too. This is not easy. Why? Because we like our daily routines, our coffee with colleagues, our five-minute chit-chats and laughter. We like visiting our customers, enjoying the nice offices we have, going to our regular places to have lunch and much more.

All of a sudden, this is gone and from one day to the next we’ve had to stay at home and are no longer allowed to go outside. We hear bad news and are worried for our families, friends and jobs.

But human nature is incredible - we adapt, find workarounds and build new routines.

This is the new normal. But whilst being in lockdown sounds difficult, I’m continuing to focus on the positive outcomes that have come with the pandemic:

My colleagues

It’s true that I can’t see them at the coffee machine, but I spend even more time with my colleagues now. Okay, so virtual meetings aren’t the same as sitting down face-to-face together, but they do the job. I schedule regular meetings with the team, and we talk every day - just like we did before but more.

We’ve been able to switch to remote working unexpectedly quickly. Technology is continuously evolving. The fact is that we are more connected than ever, and we have somehow gotten used to interacting online through social media platforms in the past couple of years.

As result, we’ve become much closer as other aspects of our lives have been put on hold. We are more productive and closer to one another, which is great!

My customers

If I had to summarise my role at Dentsu, I’d say it consists of the following three aspects:

  • Signing on our expected projects and making sure our teams deliver to them
  • Making sure we deliver what we promise to our clients at their satisfaction
  • Preparing for and protecting the future of the company

Part of my job is to negotiate with my customers. This is easier said than done when 90% of communication is non-verbal and we cannot meet each other in person. To compensate, and as many of our customers are under financial pressure as a result of COVID-19, we’ve developed advanced discount schemes so that we can continue to grow our business.

However, I would say that the most important is to be human. We are all facing the same situation and when I speak to my customers, I spend a few minutes talking about life and not just business. We share our struggles and build another type of relationship - a true partner relationship. This is the way I see business relationships: as partners.

My family

It is true that working from home can make it difficult to disconnect. This is how I deal with it:

  • If my son wants to play with me, I find ways to remain completely offline. This happens every day as soon as our nanny goes home – the good news is that she is still allowed to come and take care of him!
  • I take some time for myself. I take a break outside to enjoy the sun (the spring weather has been fantastic here in Switzerland), put my headphones on and enjoy ten minutes of music on my own twice a day.
  • Just like many of you, I now have the time to cook and prepare nice meals for my family – and I’ve improved a lot!
  • I like to go out for a walk (which is currently permitted in Switzerland) with my son and wife, as soon as my workday is finished. Thanks to our daily outings around the block, my son has learned how to ride his bike. Well done!

Although this is a very uncertain and difficult time for many people around the world, there are some silver linings to take comfort from. For me, being able to spend more time with my family is one of the more positive consequences of our confinement.

We should try to continue to focus on the priorities and grow the skills we’ve discovered during these past few months once the lockdown is over.

Pierre-Alexandre Riera is Chief Commercial Officer and Board Member at Isobar Switzerland.